Viewpoint: A lesson in social responsibility

Avenues to power and influence can take many forms and reflect many conflicting agendas as political events south of the 49th can attest. The outcome of the United States election and shock over subsequent events in the White House have left me wondering how this happened and, more importantly, what we might learn that would inform our actions as we approach local elections in October.

As Americans reflect they look to social media, the corporate elite and Russian involvement to explain the blindside of 2016. Whatever smoke and mirrors game was going on, or factors of influence playing out, it is clear the electorate dropped the ball on its responsibility to the fundamental tenets of democracy; tenets founded on integrity, honesty and social responsibility.

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When someone with little integrity, ethics or commitment to social justice occupies a position of leadership we must examine our due diligence in screening for attributes of character.

While a candidate’s resumé is an important consideration it should not be the primary determiner of leadership. We must ask a different set of questions.

We must ask questions that expose the hardwired qualities of character that unconsciously influence behaviours and ways of seeing the world; questions that separate those of substance from those that simply dazzle.

We would gain insight into a candidates foundational beliefs if we were to ask basic screening questions such as the following: What beliefs are at the core of who you are as a person? What do you fundamentally value in your work and in your community?

These beliefs can then be held up against the principles of a true and inclusive democracy and assessed for consistency.

All the skill and experience in the world will not compensate for a misalignment at this level of consideration. If there is no alignment go no further with this candidate. If there is go deeper by asking: Where do you see consistency between your beliefs and past leadership decisions? What examples might you provide? Where do you see inconsistency between your beliefs and your leadership decisions? How might these be understood?

Responses to these questions will expose issues of integrity between beliefs and actions. They also tell a lot about how a person behaves when there is a rub. A person who has lost the thread that connects beliefs with actions is vulnerable to influence and persuasion without conscience and should serve as a red flag.

As we move closer to our October election, let’s consider questions of character as a primary litmus test for those we promote and elect. Elected representatives must be grounded in a set of beliefs that support a vision of democracy that is open and collaborative if we are to avoid the Trump phenomena, whatever your political inclination.

Maureen Mason is a resident of Powell River.

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